Sweden Emigration and Immigration
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'Emigration refers to people leaving a country and Immigration refers to people coming into a country. Swedish emigration records can be a useful source of genealogical information. They are usually found as passenger lists. There are also some records of passports issued.
Emigration records can help you determine where in Sweden your ancestor came from. They can also help in constructing family groups. If you do not find your ancestor in emigration or immigration records, you may find emigration information about your ancestor's neighbors. People who lived near each other in Sweden often settled together in the country they emigrated to.
Unfortunately, there are few pre-1866 Swedish emigration records (from the ports of departure.)
Records were created when individuals emigrated from Sweden. Others document his or her arrival in the destination country. This section discusses:
- The history of emigration from Sweden.
- Finding the emigrant's parish of origin.
- Records of Swedish emigrants in their destination countries.
- 1 The History of Emigration from Sweden
- 2 Finding the Emigrant's Parish of Origin
- 3 Passenger Lists
- 4 Original Lists Indexes
- 5 Sweden - Emigration and Immigration
- 6 Extracts of Parish Records
- 7 Passport Journals
- 8 Emigration Archives
- 9 Electronic databases
- 10 LDS Emigration
- 11 Emigration from Sweden to Countries Other than North America
- 12 Books on Swedish Emigration
- 13 Records of Sweden Emigrants in Their Destination Countries
- 14 Naturalization Records
- 15 Passenger Arrivals
- 16 County Histories
- 17 Smedskivan
- 18 Vallons
- 19 Websites
The History of Emigration from Sweden
The first Swedish emigrants to the United States left Sweden in 1638 and founded the colony of New Sweden at present-day Wilmington, Delaware. New Sweden soon included villages and forts in what is now Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. Although Sweden held the colony for only 17 years, to 1655, this was the start of Swedish immigration to the United States. These Swedish and Finnish emigrants brought the first Lutheran ministers, and first log cabins to America.
Swedes who emigrated from Sweden between 1638 and the early 1800s usually traveled through other European ports. An estimated 1,300,000 people left Sweden between 1820 and 1920. Most of them were farmers, but some were craftsmen and others professionals.
Emigration was minimal until the 1850s, after which large numbers left Sweden. Emigration peaked in the 1880s. Swedes settled in every state, but most settled in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois.
The Swedish-American Line began carrying passengers directly from Sweden to America in 1915. Before that, ships left Swedish ports and went to other European countries where the passengers changed ships for their transatlantic voyage.
Swedes emigrated for several reasons. Among them were poor economic conditions, avoidance of military service, glowing accounts from emigration agents, availability of free land and encouragement from other family members in the new land, and religious persecution.
Finding the Emigrant's Parish of Origin
Once you have traced your family back to the ancestor who immigrated, you must determine the parish he or she came from.
Sweden has no nationwide index to birth, marriage, or death records. These records were kept locally. You might learn the parish of origin by talking to family members. They may know the parish or have documents that name it, such as:
- Birth, marriage, and death certificates.
- Family Bibles.
- Church certificates of moving.
- Naturalization applications and petitions.
- Passenger lists.
- Family heirlooms.
Swedish passenger lists record the people, including people from other countries, who departed from Swedish ports. The records were kept for the Swedish police authorities (Poliskammaren).
Most Swedish emigrants left from the port of Göteborg (Gothenburg). Emigrants from southern Sweden left from Malmö. Relatively few left from Stockholm and Norrköping.
Some Swedish emigrants who lived in Värmland county, which borders Norway, left via the port of Oslo. Emigrants from other parts of Sweden may also have gone through that port. Indexes for Oslo exist on microfilm and online. The web address is: http://digitalarkivet.uib.no
Others may have gone through the port of Copenhagen, Denmark. These records have been microfilmed. They are "letter grouped" which means all the "A" surnames are together chronologically, all the "B" surnames, and so forth. There is also an index which may be accessed at http://ddd.dda.dk/ddd_en.htm
The Swedish passenger lists are indexed. The Family History Library has microfilm copies of both the indexes and the original passenger lists.
The indexes for Göteborg and Malmö are alphabetical, first by the surname of the person. This alphabetizing is for individuals traveling alone. A second index follows the first, which alphabetically lists by given name, youths traveling alone. Most of these individuals are under the age of 21 years. Sometimes a reference is given to whom the minor child may be traveling with. A third and final index alphabetically lists the surnames of families traveling together. A family is composed of at least one adult and one or more children. Remember the inclusion of the Swedish diacritical letters, Åå. Ää, Öö follow the letter “Z”.
The following table lists the original lists and indexes available for each port.
Original Lists Indexes
|| 1869-1951 |
To find a film number for a specific port in a specific year, look in the FamilySearch Catalog. Each port is listed under:
Sweden - Emigration and Immigration
Many Swedes also left from the following ports:
- Copenhagen, Denmark
- Oslo and Trondheim, Norway
- Hamburg, Germany
Records from these ports are indexed and list Swedes as foreigners. As a result, the records generally list the person's last residence as Sweden, though some do list the person's home parish.
If your ancestor emigrated through Hamburg, the passenger lists and indexes are most fully described in Hamburg Passenger Lists. Note: the old Hamburg Passenger Lists Resource Guide has been incorporated into the article. Also see the microfiche instructions in Hamburg Passenger Lists.
To find records of these ports, check Place Search of the FamilySearch Catalog under:
[COUNTRY] - EMIGRATION AND IMMIGRATION
Extracts of Parish Records
Parish ministers were required to send yearly extract records to the Central Bureau of Statistics (Statistiska Centralbyrån) of people leaving Sweden or arriving in Sweden from another country. This practice was supposed to have started in 1851, but it did not become regular until 1865.
The Central Bureau of Statistics compiled these records by county. These records have been microfilmed to the year 1940. Thus far, the records between 1851 and 1860 have been indexed. The indexing is an ongoing project. Some counties have indexes more recent than 1860.
These records contain the name of each parish on the first page with statistical information about that parish. Information about the people arriving from another country or leaving Sweden have separate sections on the next page.
The parish extracts are listed in the FamilySearch Catalog under:
SWEDEN, [COUNTY] - EMIGRATION AND IMMIGRATION
Indexes to parish extracts are listed under:
SWEDEN - EMIGRATION AND IMMIGRATION - INDEXES
SWEDEN, [COUNTY] - EMIGRATION AND IMMIGRATION - INDEXES
Between 1798 and 1851, the names and residences of persons applying for passports were recorded yearly in the records of the Swedish Navy. The Navy kept the records because the passport fees went into the Navy's pension fund.
These records are available on microfilm at the Family History Library (FHL films 479331, 479587-605). Axel Friman has created an index to the names of emigrants listed in the naval records between 1817 and 1850 (FHL film 1224712 item 3).
Passport journals are also available from a few cities in Sweden. They give the name and home parish of the applicant. To find them, search the FamilySearch Catalog under:
SWEDEN, [COUNTY], [CITY] - EMIGRATION AND IMMIGRATION
Sweden has several regional emigration archives. The most prominent one is the Emigrant Institute in Växjö. It houses the largest collection of Swedish emigration materials as well as a microfilmed collection of church records from the Swedish-American Lutheran Church. The Institute's address is:
S-351 04 Växjö
A special emigration database, called Emigranten, is available at the Family History Library on a 2 computer disc set with the library catalog number CD Rom No. 574 pt 1 & 2.
It is also available to purchase in the new updated and abridged form called Emigranten Populär 2006 from the Ancestors Swedish Online Store.
The database gives access to the following files:
- EMIHAMN - Emigrants leaving through Göteborg, Malmö, Stockholm, Norrköping, and Kalmar (1.3 million names).
- Emibas - Emigrants who were residents of Göteborg City (40,000 names).
- Emisjö - Sailors who left their ships outside of Europe (20,000 names).
- Saka - A list of the church records in the Swedish-American Lutheran Church Archives.
Emigranten populär 2006
This CD is an updated and abridged version of the Emigranten 2-CD set published in 2001 (English version entitled The Swedish Emigrant).
- The new CD omits the photos and the video found in the former version.
- Omits the microfilmed records from Swedish-American church archives.
- Added to the collection is the correspondence from the Swedish emigrant agent, Larsson Brothers & Co.
- Also added is Emibas Värmland -- the emigration records extracted from church records in Värmland.
- All databases are consolidated into one CD and are supported by a common search function.
- Records span the period from the 1800's through to 1950.
This CD is available for purchase at the Ancestors Swedish Online Store.
This CD is also available at the reference counter on the International floor of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.
Another emigration database is Emibas. Emibas contains information regarding almost 1.1 million emigrants from more than 2300 Swedish parishes, three fourths of all Swedish emigrants. The following information is included: Name, title, gender, date of birth, marital status, place of residence, destination, and comments. Often the page number where the persons last appears in the husförhörslängd is also given. The searching in this CD can be done in Swedish or English.
The CD is CD-ROM no. 2213 at the Family History Library and is available on the International floor of the Family History Library. Emibas covers the years of around 1840 to 1950.
The records of the Swedish-American Lutheran churches
The records of the Swedish-American Lutheran churches are also available on microfilm through the Swenson Swedish Research Center.
Swenson Swedish Immigration Research Center
639 38th Street
RockIsland IL 61201-2296
The Scandinavian LDS Mission Index is the most comprehensive source of information about Swedish Latter-day Saint immigrants. The index alphabetically lists the Church members from all Scandinavian countries. One person may have several entries in the index.
This index generally gives the person's birth date and place, other event dates and places, and a reference to the original source of the information.
The index is on 344 microfiche and is broken down into sections of ten fiche for a part of the alphabet. The index is found in the FamilySearch Catalog under:
SWEDEN - CHURCH RECORDS - INDEXES
Emigration from Sweden to Countries Other than North America
Early Emigration to Australia from Värmland
The gold rush of 1850 in Australia attracted the miner's sons, Peter and Anders Pettersson from Herrnäs to Australia in 1853. They emigrated with 4 other miners' sons, among them Lars Fredrik Pettersson who later took the name Westblad. A couple of hired hands also went with this first group. Lars Fredrik Westblad returned to Sweden to visit his home in Bjurtjärn. When he returned to Australia in 1857, two brothers went with him and later two more brothers joined them along with a cousin and a nephew. Most likely other men emigrated from Bjurtjärn for Victoria County, Australia also.
Lars Fredrik Westblad became a justice of the peace and the owner of an inn in Mia Mia which became a gathering spot for the Swedes. With three of his brothers and four sons he operated a farm of more than 40,000 acres at Kerang, northeast of Melbourne. He did well in the cattle business.
The Westblad family in Australia reached considerable numbers and in 1976 about 300 descendants of Lars Fredrik gathered for a reunion in Kerang.
The carpenter, Axel Nilsson, born in Gillberg, emigrated from Värmland to Melbourne Australia in 1891. Alongside his carpentry work, he was also involved in parish work and the congregation wanted him to become their regular minister. He declined and became a building contractor in Bunbury in West Australia and also manufactured church furniture.
After 1860 only a few Swedes from Värmland went to America. From the sixteen parishes in Värmland only 27 people, three of whom were children, emigrated to Australia during the years 1865-1882.
Kvarnström, Gunnel. "Early Emigration to New Zealand and Australia from Värmland". The Bridge. March 1996 pages 10 and 11.
Early Emigration to New Zealand from Värmland
Carl Eberhard Sjöstedt of Värmland along with his English wife came to Palmerston on South Island in 1842. Here he became a sucessful sheeprancher and "Mount Charles was named after him. He also was the owner of the modern hotel in Wellington. Both he and his wife died before reaching age 50 and left behind nine sons and one daughter. By 1988 the Suisted (formerly Sjöstedt) included more than 300 members living in New Zealand and Australia.
During the 1870's New Zealand had a great need for skillful lumberjacks. A selected group of Swedes and Norwegians with this skill were offered free passage to New Zealand. The first group consisted of 40 people, all of which were Norwegians with the exception of one family from Värmland. The husband, Nils Jönsson Bergqvist was born in Skåne and his wife, Johanna Augusta, was born in Karlskoga. Two children who were born to them in Sweden, one in Karlskoga and the other in Boda in 1869. They were the first Swedish family to arrived in New Zealand as "assisted passengers.
Later emigrants were subsidized in part for the cost of the trip. This was done so that the trip to New Zealand would not cost more than to Chicago.
One Swedish agent living in New Zealand was sent to Scandinavia to recruit emigrants. Most of the recruits came from Oslo, Norway and Copenhagen, Denmark. Most Swedes who were recruited from Värmland sailed from Oslo.
From Värmland there was a total of 80 people who emigrated. Two families emigrated from Östervallskog in 1872 and two families from Östmark, one in 1875 and the other in 1877. A total of 12 people emigrated from Östmark, one person in 1886 and two in 1910. From other parishes in Värmland, the number of emigrants varied from one to four people. Fifteen emigrated from Värmland around 1900.
Kvarnström, Gunnel. "Early Emigration to New Zealand and Australia from Värmland". The Bridge. March 1996 pages 10 and 11.
Although not emigration records, Buenos Aires, Argentina had a small population of Scandinavian immigrants. They primarily belonged to Norwegian sailing families. Many of the parish members were from other Nordic countries, including a handful of Swedish immigrants. Church records have been microfilmed from 1888-1919, with some later records appearing on the Norwegian National Archives website: http://digitalarkivet.no/ There is an English language version of the Norwegian National Archives website.These records include, many times, places of birth in the Nordic country of origin.
Books on Swedish Emigration
An excellent book about Swedish emigration available at the Family History Library is:
Clemensson, Per and Kjell Andersson. Emigrantforska! Steg för steg (Emigration Research. Step by Step). Falköping, Sweden: Gummessons Tryckeri AB, 1996. (FHL book 948.5 D27ce.)
Records of Sweden Emigrants in Their Destination Countries
Sometimes the best sources for information about your immigrant ancestor are found in the country he or she emigrated to. The records there may provide the town or place of origin and other information. To learn about these records, use handbooks, manuals, and the wiki for that country (if available).
Many of the emigrating Swedes settled in the upper mid-west of the United States. States like Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois and Iowa, plus the Dakotas received the bulk of the Swedish emigrants. It was not uncommon for Swedes to cluster in spots and form their own communities. Many also affiliated with Lutheran churches once they arrived in America. The American-Lutheran Church membership records can be very informative for finding more information about your emigrating Swedish ancestor. These registers are on file with the Swenson Institute located at Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has microfilmed most Swedish immigrant church records in the United States. Its address is:
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)
8765 West Higgins Road
Chicago, Illinois 60631-4198
The microfilms are available through the Augustana College. See Societies for the address.
US Naturalization records can sometimes provide the necessary information regarding place of origin. However, these kinds of records frequently only list the name of the country from where the individual came and the name of the king, etc. of that country. Naturalization records are found in the FamilySearch Catalog at the county level of the state in which the county is located. First papers are filed with the clerk’s office at the time the individual first applied for citizenship. However, citizenship was not granted until the residency requirement, which was 5-7 years had been satisfied.
Most Swedish immigrants to the United States arrived at the ports of New York and Quebec. The Family History Library has microfilm copies of the records and some indexes.
An important book on Sweden immigrants to the United States is:
Olsson, Nils William and Erik Wikèn. Swedish Passenger Arrivals in U.S. Ports 1820-1850
Stockholm, Sweden: N. W. Olsson and E. Wikèn, 1995. (FHL book 973 W3on.)
Histories from the counties where Swedish immigrants settled sometimes provide the immigrants' town of origin.
Many early immigrants coming into Sweden came from areas in Germany, France and Belgium. A large percentage of those migrants were involved in the smith trade, working in foundries. A database has been created called Smedskivan which helps locate them. It is organized into family units and is very simple to use. Many times, the origins in the previous country are provided.
Many Belgians whose surnames are distinctly French in origin can be found in the mining families of Sweden. For more, see: Vallons in Sweden